Robert Gesink of the Netherlands cruised to victory in the Tour of California on Sunday, finishing the eighth and final stage in the middle of the pack, just eight months after he shattered his leg in a fall.
The Dutchman, who claimed the leader’s yellow jersey when he won Saturday’s penultimate stage in the Californian mountains, retained his 46-second lead over his nearest competitor, American David Zabriskie.
“It’s moments like this, when you have your good times and your wins, that’s what you do it for,” said Gesink, who captured his first overall win since fracturing his leg in four places during a training run.
Sunday’s final stage, a 44.7-mile ride from glitzy Beverly Hills to downtown Los Angeles, was won by Slovakian sprint specialist Peter Sagan, who also won the first four stages of the Tour.
Sagan, who fell back during the time-trial and the two gruelling mountain climbs in the Golden State, produced another of his trademark late bursts, crossing the line first in one hour, 27 minutes and 36 seconds. He finished 42nd overall, more than 27 minutes behind Gesink.
Tom Boonen of Belgium, a former world road race champion currently ranked No. 1 in the world, finished a close second while Germany’s Gerald Ciolek was third.
Zabriskie also finished in the middle of the pack to finish second overall for the fourth time in the seven editions of the Tour. His countryman Tom Danielson was third overall for the second year in a row.
Gesink, now 25, emerged as one of the promising riders on the circuit when he finished sixth overall in the Tour de France then won the Tour of Oman a year later, but his confidence was dented by the death of his father then his own crash.
“We have an amazing team here and the guys supported me all the way through,” said Gesink. “I had some tough months after breaking my leg and all that happened before that.
“It’s a victory my team was waiting for, and this is an important race for us. Previously, I won the young rider’s jersey and this time I won the overall jersey, so California is good to me.”